October 23, 2013
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neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost
importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and
your family are listed below.
21st Annual Dia de los Muertos Exhibition
Date: Now through Sat., November 16
This October marks 21 years of the Walker's Point Center of the Arts
celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a rich Mexican
tradition. Curated by local art historian Juan Lopez, this traditional
celebration will include a touch of contemporary flavor with ofrendas
(altars/offerings) created by local artists of various backgrounds in
addition to sculpture and 2-D work related to the holiday. Dia de los
Muertos recognizes death as a celebration of life. It reminds one to
reflect on what they value through the commemoration of loved ones and
their lives, while at the same time generating enthusiasm for the
friends and family around us. As the celebration progresses, this
dynamic gathering of people transforms itself into a festivity of life.
Informational tours and culturally relevant crafts for kids are
available during the course of this exhibition. The opening reception
will be held on Friday, October 18 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
CLICK HERE for more information.
Sensibilities in Collage
Explore contemporary approaches to collage as informed by the digital
realm and a shift in the definition and cultural boundaries of art.
CLICK HERE for more information.
15th Annual Milwaukee Short Film Festival
Fri., October 25 and
Sat., October 26
Location: South Milwaukee
500 Clown uses action-based performance, improvisation, and circus arts
to enact long-form dramatic stories that involve both physical and
emotional risk. Frankenstein features three performers who are
charged with a task: "make monster." Bound in elaborate Edwardian
costumes, the trio embarks on a journey to construct Dr. Frankenstein's
laboratory while they struggle and battle through acrobatic feats. A
tale of doctor and monster is told from scraps of the classic novel and
Hollywood versions, inviting audience involvement throughout.
CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase tickets.
South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (MAP)
901 15th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
Romeo & Juliet
When a story is retold as often as Romeo & Juliet, how it is told is of
utmost importance. And nobody tells a story quite like Milwaukee Ballet.
7th Annual Turkish
Enjoy the Turkish Film Festival that is screened at the UW-Milwaukee
In response to concerns expressed by neighbors who participated in the higher education survey or attended the College Affordability Tour, I have signed onto legislation to help make higher education more affordable in Wisconsin. Continue reading for more on this and other important issues including Walker-created ghost jobs, helping neighbors with disabilities find employment, and pending Hoan Bridge construction.
Increase Higher Education Affordability
Over the years, exponential increases in tuition and fees coupled with challenging economic times have made it nearly impossible for students to work their way through school, as was commonplace in the past. While 45% of 1992-93 bachelor's degree graduates borrowed money from the government, private loan providers, or family, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education survey, approximately two-thirds of 2007-08 bachelor's degree graduates borrowed money from the government or private lenders (family loans were not considered in this figure). In fact, the U.S. recently surpassed $1 trillion in outstanding student loans, with nearly 40 million Americans holding approximately $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationally, meaning the average per person debt totals about $30,000.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin is not faring much better than the national trend. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve System there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents with federal student loan debt (this does not include those with private student loan debt). Further, college tuition costs have doubled over the last 12 years and Wisconsin's student loan borrowers have an average debt of $22,400. It is estimated that Wisconsin residents paying student loans from obtaining a bachelor's degree are currently paying an average of $388 per month for about 18.7 years.
Student debt is the only kind of household debt that continued to rise through the Great Recession, and is now the second largest consumer debt in our country, more than credit cards or auto loans. Having this money tied up in debt is a huge drain on our already struggling Wisconsin economy as the money spent on student loans could instead be spent on cars, new homes, and at local businesses in our communities.
Higher Education Survey Results Are In
Because higher education affordability has been a hot topic in our state and nationally, I created a survey recently to hear your thoughts on higher education affordability. This was a great opportunity for me to hear about the personal experiences of neighbors with regards to higher education and the resulting debt.
Overall, 132 people responded with their perspective and personal experience regarding higher education affordability. The results of this survey have been calculated, although some of the survey responses were unable to be tabulated due to their open-ended format. As you review the results, please keep in mind that the survey was not scientific. I invited anyone that subscribes to the Larson Report to participate and also made the survey available on my Web site. Below are the results I found to be the most significant:
Thank you to everyone that took the time to share your thoughts and personal stories regarding higher education affordability. These responses were very helpful in determining how to move Wisconsin forward on this important issue.
Proposal to Increase Higher Education Affordability Circulated
Some issues related to student loans can only be dealt with at the federal level. Unfortunately, Congress' current partisan gridlock leaves little hope for real relief for student loan borrowers in the near future. We cannot wait for Congress to act. It is time for innovative, common sense solutions that will provide real relief for Wisconsin's student loan borrowers.
According to survey respondents, lowering interest rates is one of the most helpful ways we can work together to make higher education more affordable in Wisconsin. Therefore, I have signed onto legislation that would do just this.
The Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill--authored by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason--would do the following:
This proposal will go a long way in helping current and future student loan borrowers to realize significant savings. While savings under the bill will vary depending on an individual's debt load and the interest rates, student loan borrowers will now have the option to deduct student loans from their income tax and/or refinance their student loans. Both of these options are currently very challenging or impossible for many Wisconsinites under current law.
As you can see, this legislation
offers common sense solutions for real savings on behalf of
Wisconsinites managing student loan debt. I hope legislative Republicans
will see the economic value of moving forward with such a proposal.
Therefore, I encourage them to join me in supporting the Higher Ed,
Lower Debt bill. Wisconsinites cannot afford to wait any longer for more
affordable college education and decreasing their debt burden.
Ghost Jobs Help Walker Reward Allies, Circumvent Taxpayers
It is almost Halloween, but it seems
as though the governor's administration has been acting spooky all year
long. So far this year, five state officials have been given substantial
salary hikes, thanks to the Walker administration's creation of "ghost
jobs" that has allowed state officials to undermine taxpayers and bypass
the civil service system.
In February, the Capitol police chief was transferred on paper to a nonexistent position in the Department of Administration (DOA), which allowed him to receive a raise of $11,680 (11.7%) to $111,680 annually. He did not do any work related to the job he was transferred to and instead continued to perform his police duties. Within a few weeks, he was switched back on paper to his original position. Similar trickery was used to bump the pay of two DOA employees, as well as the deputy police chief at the Capitol.
Receiving the biggest increase of
$14,416 (14.4%) to $114,917 annually was the state economist in charge
of determining the accuracy of jobs data. According to an email chain
obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to achieve this
increase, the economist first had to be transferred from the Department
of Revenue (DOR) to DOA where his salary was increased to $100,501
annually. Then, he was given a raise in that department on paper so his
salary could be increased to $107,705. Next, he was transferred to the
Division of Enterprise Operations to achieve an even higher salary of
$114,917 before being returned to his old position at DOR. This paper
shuffle allowed the governor to reward his cronies by evading the
policies in place intended to maintain integrity in our pay scale. The
raise left this particular economist's pay 26% higher than another chief
economist with a comparable job in a different state agency.
The Walker administration has argued
that these raises reflect the strong performance of the employees. But
the question is not whether or not these particular officials earned
their raises. After all, there are many other state employees who have
also performed their duties extraordinarily. Yet, many Wisconsin state
workers received only a 1% pay raise in July, their first increase in
four years after repeated furloughs and take home pay cuts. Other state
workers represented by labor unions have not received any increase while
they await state action. The system in place is meant to be applied
fairly to all civil servants and it is unacceptable when a select few
are loop-holed into double-digit pay raises.
Ironically, Walker's ghost jobs are
lacking in the main quality that Halloween ghosts have--transparency.
I often have neighbors contact me
looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very
much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion
of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open
dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.
Wisconsinites with disabilities have been hit particularly hard by our lagging economy. Many have turned to the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), which provides important job training and employment assistance services for individuals with disabilities looking for work. The DVR offers career guidance and counseling, job search and placement assistance, rehabilitation technology, job training, transportation, and more. Further, it has proven to be a worthy investment by providing a return of $2.10 for every $1 put into the program.
About a month ago, Governor Walker
introduced his latest jobs package. After three years of failure at WEDC
and ignoring our state's jobs problem, I hope this means that Governor
Walker and legislative Republicans are finally realizing that divisive
policies and political games are not a winning strategy for creating
jobs in Wisconsin. Democrats have been urging those on the other side of
the aisle to adopt proven job creation methods, such as investing in
current and future generations of Wisconsin workers through job training
and education. We are encouraged to see that they are finally deciding
to join us in focusing on job creation.
This legislation I am referring to--Senate Bill 274 and Assembly Bill 131--would solve the aforementioned problems at DVR by shortening the waiting list. Under this bill, Wisconsin will be able to take full advantage of federal incentives for the state's successful vocational rehabilitation program.
I have signed on as a co-sponsor to
this legislation--authored by Democratic Sen. Jennifer Shilling and
Democratic Rep. Katrinka Shankland--which has since received bipartisan
support and the endorsement of advocacy groups including Disability
Rights Wisconsin and the Board for People with Developmental
Disabilities. My colleagues and I are pleased that these bills have
received interest from both parties and hope Republicans will help move
these bills through the legislative process quickly. By providing
support to Wisconsin's DVR program, we can take an important step toward
getting people back to work and help those with disabilities receive
valuable job training services.
Given the track record and broken promises of Wisconsin's Republicans leaders, this is a time to be optimistic, but cautious. Too many families continue to struggle to find jobs and get back on their feet. For the sake of Wisconsin's future, I hope legislative Republicans remain focused on jobs and are not side-tracked by pursuing more divisive legislation or rewarding their special interest allies yet again.
This proposed legislation passed unanimously out of the Joint Committee on Finance, but has yet to pass the full Senate or Assembly.
Did You Know...?
You may know that the television series That '70s Show takes place in Wisconsin, but did you know that one of the show's lead actors--Kurtwood Smith--is originally from New Lisbon, Wisconsin?
That '70s Show is set in a fictional, suburban town named Point Place, Wisconsin, during the 1970s. The show ran for eight seasons and focused on the life of teenager Eric Foreman, his family, and his friends.
Kurtwood Smith played the role of Red Foreman, who was the father of Eric and Laurie Foreman, and husband to Kitty Foreman. Red was a Navy combat veteran. Despite his usual mean exterior, Red occasionally displays a soft side.
In various episodes, That '70s Show also examined cultural traditions important to those of us that live in Wisconsin including: ice fishing, hunting, attending Packer games, and our love for beer and cheese.
Hoan Bridge Construction Beginning
Monday, crews began preparing Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge for a two-year
project that includes redecking and, unfortunately for commuters,
closing off lanes during construction.
Halloween is Almost Here
Get your costumes ready because
Halloween is creeping up on us. Trick-or-treating has been a popular
Halloween tradition in the United States and other countries for nearly
100 years. This community-based ritual is one of the most highly
anticipated holidays as it is an evening of fun, costumes, and candy
that all ages can enjoy. This year, Halloween falls on a Thursday, so
most trick-or-treating will take place the weekend prior on October 26
Trick-or-Treating in Our Community
Tips for Driving Safely this Winter
The weather is starting to change as we approach winter. Below is a list of safe winter driving tips to assist you in being mindful of the weather and roads:
|October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month|
Since 1981, the Violence Intervention Program has recognized October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The initial purpose was to bring awareness and help end violence against women and their children, but has since grown to encompass domestic violence of all kinds.
Children are greatly affected by
domestic violence as well. Approximately 30% to 60% of batterers will
also abuse children in the household. Being a victim or witnessing
violence is the strongest risk factor for children to grow up and
continue the cycle of violence. These children will also be more likely
to suffer from emotional disorders, substance abuse, and have a higher
dropout rate in school.
The city of Milwaukee's Common Council
created the Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
in 1979. It brought together a team of experts and community leaders to
address the issues of family violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.
Their purpose is to increase the safety of victims and hold the abusers
accountable. They do this by working with organizations, the media, and
the government to ensure the community is educated on the issues.
According to the Milwaukee's 2012
crime statistics, domestic violence incidents rose 48% in 2012. Domestic
violence is also the most underreported crime in the nation. Roughly,
only 25% of all physical assaults are reported to the police.
Domestic violence and abuse can happen
to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or even denied.
This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than
physical. Knowing and understanding the signs of an abusive relationship
is the first step to ending it.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please consider using the following resources:
Awareness is growing, but we still have a lot of work before us to put an end to domestic violence.
Survey on K-12 Education Available
Investing in quality education is a shared Wisconsin value that many of us highly treasure. Our next generation of workers are in Wisconsin schools right now, and their success or failure will likely dictate whether Wisconsin will succeed or fail in the years to come.
As a result, the statewide expansion of the private voucher program and the reduction of state aid to the majority of our local public schools for the 2013-2014 school year have become increasingly hot topics. Therefore, I would like to hear your thoughts on K-12 education in Wisconsin. I have created an online survey to learn more about you and your perspective. Please take the time to fill it out. I look forward to hearing back from you on the important issue of K-12 education in Wisconsin.
Take the 2013-2014 Neighborhood Survey
I created a survey for the 2013-2014
Legislative Session asking about various issues that are important to
our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly
appreciated. My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many
surveys door to door as possible before winter arrives. In addition, I
have also made this survey available online.
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